Diaphragm Paralysis


In 1974, Anders was a young electrical engineer working in Africa helping to install a power grid. Soon after his return to his home in Sweden, he became afflicted by a mysterious neuromuscular ailment which rendered him completely paralyzed and ventilator-dependent.

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In 2005, Michael began to exhibit difficulty breathing. After an extensive workup and an unsuccessful trial with C-Pap, he was provided with a chest cuirass. About one week later, he suffered a stroke to the brain stem which paralyzed his diaphragms.

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Breathing pacemakers are indicated for patients with diaphragm paralysis who would otherwise be completely or partially dependent on mechanical ventilation so long as the phrenic nerve(s) and diaphragm(s) are intact. Patients with diseases in which the phrenic nerves have completely demyelinated, such as advanced ALS, or the diaphragm muscle is irreversibly atrophied,such as muscular dystrophy, are not candidates for diaphragm pacing.

Chest X-Ray Showing elevated right hemidiaphragm

What is Diaphragm Paralysis?

Diaphragm Paralysis is the loss of control of one or both hemidiaphragms caused by a traumatic injury or disease process which decreases or terminates the impulse of respiratory stimuli originating in the brain. Causes of diaphragm paralysis include, but are not limited to:

  • Central neurological disorders such as a brain or brainstem stroke,
  • Spinal cord disorders such as syringomyelia or poliomyelitis,
  • Direct trauma to the phrenic nerve from surgery, radiation, or tumor,
  • Autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis,
  • Demyelinating disease processes such as Guillan-BarrĂ© syndrome and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease),
  • Phrenic nerve neuropathy, viral or bacterial infections, and idiopathic (ie, unknown) etiologies.

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